Junior cross-country runner Andrea Condie started her running career far from where she is now. Condie said although her family is American, she was born and raised outside of the United States.
“I was born in Argentina,” Condie said. “We moved over to Qatar, which is a tiny little middle eastern country, when I was five, so I grew up there basically.”
Like many young athletes, Condie said she followed in the footsteps of her older siblings and parents, but it wasn’t until an elementary school P.E. teacher encouraged her to pursue running that she really adopted it.
“My fifth grade P.E coach, was like, ‘Oh hey, I want to start an elementary cross-country team and I think you should come out for it,’” she said. “I was like, ‘OK, I don’t know anything about this sport I’ve just seen my brother and sister doing it, but I want to try it’. I went out for it and just really, really loved it.”
But her family’s involvement with the sport and her teacher’s encouragement weren’t the only factors that drove her to join cross-country. Condie said it was also her sense of competition.
“I wanted to beat all the boys and be the fastest,” she said.
Condie said starting her career in a vastly different terrain taught her a whole new aspect of the sport.
“It was a lot more about me,” she said. “How much can I push myself, how much can I get out of myself today because I know I’m not going to have someone else up there with me so I just need to see what I can do.”
Aside from the mental aspect of running in another country, she said the variety in climate and conditions also impacted her training.
“It was always hot,” Condie said. “We didn’t have super nice tracks, we didn’t have super nice courses. I only got to race once a year for cross-country in high school, which is like very different compared to most high schools where you race almost every weekend so I got one or two big races a year so it was really like this was my race to PR for the season, so I put a lot of pressure on that.”
Once she arrived in and began her training at Idaho, she said she had to learn how to race, something she had not done in her previous setting.
“I had to really like learn to race, because I had never learned to race people,” she said. “Coming here was a lot more about learning the tactical side of the race and learning different conditions, like rain, snow, all of that, it was so different than just running in heat all the time and getting different courses and just racing so much more than I ever had was kind of crazy.”
On top of an entirely different style of running and training, Condie said one of the biggest shocks was that she was no longer the only girl.
“Being able to run with girls and train with girls was so different than anything I ever had,” she said. “I always trained with the boys and I was always top of the boys so it was kind of weird for me, being on a girl team for once, being super close to a ton of girls and having them there to push me, it is a completely different race when you are racing with someone.”
Many college athletes have struggled with the transition from high school to college athletics, but Condie said she came into it knowing she was no longer going to be the best in her field.
“I knew, ‘OK, you’re not going to be the best anymore, you just need to see if this is even right for you,’” she said. “I wasn’t even sure if I was cut out for college running yet. I was like I’ve never had anything like that, I’ve never had that high of a level so I was just like, ‘well I am here, I have this opportunity, I just want to kind of see if I can make anything out of it.’”
She said it took her some time to fully make the transition after spending a semester wondering if this was the right fit for her. Condie said it took a couple of months until she finally came around to accepting that she belonged on the team.
“Adjusting to that was, I think, the hardest thing,” she said. “Just finding confidence in myself and being like, ‘I’m not just an outsider, I’m part of this team too.’”
Despite adjusting to her spot on the team, she said it has taken years for her to fully build up her confidence in herself and her talents. Condie said it took a disappointing 2017 outdoor track season to really push her.
“That was the really defining point for me,” she said. “I was like, ‘OK, I need to start believing in myself, I need to start knowing what I can do, because I know I can give so much more to this sport still.’”
Condie said she fully utilized her summer training to prepare for the 2017 cross-country season so she could hit the ground running in her first year as an upper classman.
“I’ve had the (summer) to grow and now I’m where I want to be and I want to get back to the confidence I had in high school, where I could just go out and be like, ‘Hey, I am number one here and that is just how it is’,” Condie said
This mentality has helped Condie thus far in her junior season, leading her to win two meets and named the Big Sky Athlete of the Week following her performance at the Clash of the Inland Northwest. But she said her wins did not necessarily come as a surprise to her.
“I told myself that first meet ‘hey I really want to try and win this first meet’,” she said. “But it was still kind of a shock when I found myself in the front and I was like, ‘oh, this is actually happening now.’”
Idaho director of track and field/cross-country Tim Cawley said although he did not expect such immediate success, he knew Condie was running at a higher level.
“Once we kind of got to cross-country camp and you saw where she was at, where she was running, the level, it is not like it surprises you but I wasn’t necessarily expecting it,” he said. “It is one to kind of show that fitness and then to still show the confidence in the race.”
Cawley said Idaho has a lot of athletes training at a high level, but the ones who can translate training and confidence to a race, as Condie has done this season, are the athletes that will find themselves with wins.
“She is starting to believe in herself,” he said. “It is not that false belief where you are just trying to believe as much as you can. She truly believes she’s… as talented as she is and it is starting to show.”
Cawley said he believes she has always had the confidence to succeed, but just now she has translated it to her races.
“She has always had that little bit of quiet confidence,” Cawley said. “But to see her own that confidence a little bit more is why I think you are seeing a lot of the success.”
But for Condie, it was being named the Big Sky Athlete of the Week that she did not expect.
“I was really just like taken aback, like wow, this is really cool and I didn’t really know how to process it more than that,” she said. “I worked really hard for that and it is really cool to see how much hard work pays off in this sport. It was kind of like, ‘Wow, my summer training really meant something and all that time and effort I put into this sport is really meaning something.’”
With her success so far this season, Condie said she has had to adjust to filling the role of a team leader.
“Last season we really lost a lot of our main seniors and they were kind of the leaders of the team,” Condie said. “I feel like me and the other junior girls have really worked to try and fill those shoes, and they are big shoes to fill, but I think we really are working towards that goal and making sure we are good role models and are good representations of what Idaho track and field represents.”
Cawley said he believes she has filled her role perfectly to start her season.
“To see the way she emulates just her positive attitude and her collaboration with the team. She is someone, as a staff, I have no problem watching her lead and start to find that leadership role,” he said. “You have to find your own way to be a leader. She is more a lead by example but she is finding herself in position to where she has to learn how to adjust to that and how to handle that, she is doing a great job thus far.”
While she said she will continue to work toward personal bests for both herself and the team throughout the rest of the season and seasons to come, Condie said she hopes to continue to help her team even in the simplest of ways.
“I am a happy person,” she said. “I hope that I make other people happy.”
Meredith Spelbring can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org